A promotional ad for Rome at the entrance to Metro Cavour.
It's a pseudo search, saying
"Rome is everybody's, Rome is beautiful, Rome is light, Rome is eternal, Rome is home, Rome is poetry, Rome is art, Rome is roots..."
So not a search, but real markers of what this city is all about.

Friday 16 September 2022

Especially important

 In looking back over four astounding years at this my final visit to Italy, in 2018, one of the earliest postings in the blog is what I go back to most often, exemplifying how we flee from the tourist popular to be among regular Italians and experience the magic that arises. 

So have a look back here. A day when things just got carried away.


Monday 5 November 2018


Since I wrote this, some interesting discussion of the subject at TripAdvisor. See


There is a trench being dug, a service pipe of some kind being upgraded, under the cobblestone street, Via Baccina, below our window. Photos below reveal what's under the cobblestone surface.

The mesmerising patterns of cobblestone are an art; artisans make cobblestone roads. The strength of such roads is significant. When you see them uprooted by roadwork you realise how big the individual cobblestones are. 

Given their tapered shape, downward force of traffic increases the upward force effect of the underlying road bed on the cobblestones and the load. They carry immense loads of traffic in some places. They are durable but the way they are made means that there will inevitably be unevenness over time. Cobblestones have a beauty, one of the defining beauties of Rome. As is the sound of tyres on them. And these days the sound of trundled suitcases.

you see the limited space for excavation.

an enlargement from the previous photo, to show the shape and depth of the cobblestones

Graffiti and other details of our street and round the corner

For weeks, coming down the hill, we only saw the red and black and blue. Then suddenly the white jumped at us.

Looking down Via del Garofano

Perhaps a comment here about the offices of TIM, the major phone company.

There is a problem of rising damp.

I shade my eyes from all those scribbles opposite

I try, I really try.

But he died, didn't he?

Someone wrote something harsh, ending in knife. Someone wrote in green, amore, over the top

Well, our name plates are elegant

There is a weed shop round the corner

A corner buttress, which gathers water, thus moss


Am I not able to think of myself as a graffito?

and a little elegance to finish
and a dog, on a damp afternoon

I had hoped to get back to the Brueghels today

I had hoped to revisit the Brueghels...

...in the Palazzo Doria Pamphilji today but was distracted along the way by buskers and then the rain and total fatigue set in.

So if, just if, you have been sitting waiting for a report on the Brueghels, on high art, on great beauty, here is someone's analysis of what I think is the greatest of all films, a Brueghel in complexity, a thing of tension and intelligence and beauty, without violence, with humanity, Wong Kar-wai's In the Mood for Love.

This is not the whole film but a nice analysis. However he doesn't speak of the colour and the beauty, which is like analysing pasta in black and white without the eating, without mentioning olive oil. The beauty is fundamental to how the film takes us on its extraordinary path, which the analysis covers well. He's a boy, he tried to count the frames, didn't try to count the dresses. There's a level in which this film floats through beauty and the plot is just an underlying mystery. The beauty holds it together. Other Wong Kar-wai films shred themselves a little, torment themselves. The sequel, 2046, taking its name from a room number in this film, wanders into the future and more dimensions in seeking the human heart.

Here, dubbed into Italian, is a scene towards the end. 
In a rainy street that looks a bit like Rome in this past wet week.

Buskers on the Via dei Fori Imperiali, Rome

Several parts, excuse the hand wobbles

Part 1: A bit shaky handed, could say rainy day, could say 180 degree panning with feet not moving... or could say shaky hands. This is from the point at which we emerge onto the road coming from our apartment. I dwelt upon the bus with its apposite destination. But Julius Caesar (Giulio Cesare) had not known he would have a road constructed, a wide cut through the Prati district)****, in the 1880s, with barracks of the army and carabinieri there, not too far from the Vatican City, just defeated in the new Italian Kingdom's fight with the pope for Rome.

**** that link is to the Italian Wikipedia entry for Prati, which is informative. Get that translated by opening in Chrome, don't click for the version at English Wikipedia, which is rubbish.

For part 2 we have crossed the road to be nearer. One interesting phenomenon in this little recording is the way people passing by go out of their way to suggest they are not listening, cannot see, need not contribute a coin. We did contribute and bought a couple of CDs, see them being offered in the last moment of the film. The music may not be Opera House standard, but then we did not go to the Opera House. We went on a rainy day to the Via dei Fori Imperiali in Rome and got a bit wet. That's the relevant memory.

We are very close to the paid-access walkways of the Forum.

You can also appreciate how nice it is in Rome, especially staying in Monti, just nearby, to have daily glimpses of the Colosseum, without the urge to go inside and play Charlton Heston or Russell Crowe. For us all this is part of beloved furniture.

What went on in the Colosseum as we call it, the Arena back then, was pretty appalling. See here, and especially here. Now hurry and join the pack with your online, beat the queue ticket.


Just a little more music: Yesterday, Lennon-McCartney. In the video you can see the styles of different visitors. The east Asians–Koreans, Chinese and Japanese–lead in general refinement and modest style.

The musicians, the buskers recorded, made very little money,
but this pair just nearby were making buckets of money.
We are inclined to empty-headedness as a species, I suppose.

Saturday 3 November 2018

Palazzo Doria Pamphilji, the astonishment

Imagine. A Saturday morning. A miraculous moment of sunny morning after rainy days. Out among modern scabrous art forms that arrest the eye in Rome, if one looks and is possessed of arrestible eyes.

and then, gloriously, found ourselves on Via del Corso, behind a couple, 
he in Borsalino Classico, like mine, and she in leather jacket (see below Helen's leather trousers, my Borsalino in shadow) ... such Saturday morning style

when there on our left a sign foretelling an end to innocent passeggiata

In this seventy year old Italian republic without dukes or counts or princes or marquises, see there
a magnificent word principesche which I suppose can be dully and inadequately translated at 'princely'.  Followed by words like Brueghel, Caravaggio, etc... 

In typing that now, I realise that we did not see, or did not realise if we saw, all such wonders... although now I've gone through it all again they are here below... :-)  

I defend myself with the principle I espouse about galleries, that one should identify wonders to be bewondered by and not treat it like an all-you-can-eat gobble-up.

Nor did we have any idea, in attending to, for a room or so, the excellent clear account of the rooms by Jonathan Doria Pamphilji on the wander-speaker-doovers, which he introduced to Italy twenty years ago, that we were listening to a person himself of remarkable modern noteworthiness—read Vanity Fair. where Jonathan also gives a lively account of family history.

There is information in the gallery's website here, including partial information on the collection.  You can also search for information from the other end, regarding artists, for example the works here of Jan Brueghel... that will give you an impression of the colossal quality of the collection.

My photos are here for memories and for enticement to the blog reader.

one enters via state rooms the intention of which to intimidate.
Perhaps derived from the idea of the Rolli palaces in Genova, such as pioneered by the Doria family 
with whom the Pamphilji were not yet married. Top Doria here. You'll see from that why Jonathan's mother called the Dorias
the pirate branch of the family.
Just exactly why people were being intimidated or awed here I don't know but considering the power
of papal association, the Trump International Hotel in Washington comes to mind.

Jonathan's commentary notes that the general idea in the 1600s was to use paintings much as wallpaper
rather than being given attention as individual art works
and that landscapes were unusual in the 1600s.
In some works the landscape was done by the landscape guy, the people done by the figure painting guy.

One can compare this great opulence with that of great churches intent upon awe, over centuries and still so in Rome.
Jonathan's commentary (he does get called prince but, um, that's been outlawed since the republic began) notes that
the family's power peaked with the election of a Pamphilji as Pope Innocent X.
The title Innocent might have been offered by George Orwell.
Innocent handed out things to family, a nepotic practice begun by the Farnese some time earlier,
see Piacenza in this blog. Nepotic, Jonathan notes, derives from nipote, Italian for grandson.
Arcade of picture, Bernini's Innocent X is on the left, right there.

ill-focused photo of Bernini's Innocent X

This reminds me of the late John Lavett, a foreign service friend killed in a plane crash when he was Charge d'Affaires
in Hanoi in the complicated year of 1975.
A bachelor, John had previously been posted to the Australian Embassy in Moscow.
On his last night in Moscow he spoke to the Wall beside his bed, as we might imagine the gentleman above might speak...
He spoke thus:
"Well Wall, we've been together for two years now. Interesting years. I've enjoyed my time here.
"But there's one thing I've wanted to do, one place I've wanted to go to and I've not been there.
"I've not been to X."
... and in the morning, when he went downstairs, there was a black car, a man smiling, a door opened
... and he was whisked to X.
How that gentleman above must wish to be whisked away...

or perhaps he just has an opinion about the people upstairs

Excuse me for irreverence in the presence of great art, but this has the makings of a caption contest.

Always look where you are going, the delights as well as devils are in the details

You may sit on the modern chairs, not on the roped-off historical.
You may of course wonder who has sat here. 

The artist Albano, or Albanese, perhaps clear if you click and enlarge, the landscape appears to be
of the colli Albani, the Alban Hills, south of Rome,.
Innocent X's predecessor as pope, Urban 8, built this in those hills.
There are little jokes here and there in Italy. The papal summer palace at Castel Gandolfo is high above the
Castel Gandolfo railway station. There is a difficult steep road between, without footpath.
At some time in the past the local government has called this Via Antonio Gramsci.

Reflected in door glass, the Velasquez

Velasquez's Innocent X

The sign outside with lists of artists mentioned Tintoretto.
I confess that there was so much at eye level that I did not look at the ceilings at all.
But then I realise that Tintoretto was dead before this, no chance to do ceilings here,
though doubtless here and elsewhere a continuing inspiration.
This Tintoretto is said to be somewhere here. I may have just brushed past it...

Forgive me, but: Man with 3D Printed Gun.

A room of paintings of the Villa Doria Pamphilji, the largest public park in Rome

a restoration project

if this occasion was in the Villa Doria Pamphilji they must have found the mushrooms
Then another corridor of famous works. This whole gallery is overwhelming, demonstrating my general preference for just focusing on a few works at a time. Somehow the see-the-lot bug got me.

I'm going to get a fail rating for the photos and failure to comment, but I'm not an art historian and my main concern has been to make a record for ourselves and to offer it to readers as a rough introduction.

As one progresses there is the growing sense of how bizarre the wealth of the few, the presumptions of the church chiefs and its relatives to power and money then and this gallery now; open to the public but massive in size, a landmark of wealth and inequality, in this case a more refined and less destructive element than the media moguls and bankers, but nonetheless onepercentile.

But to stay with the past, the era when all this was being set up: in those days there were, running round the streets next door, from the lovely church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, with its fine little Bernini elephant***, the dark mob, the Dominicans, the runners of the Inquisition*****: "Fetch Galileo, let's put the frighteners on him again... oh and tell Bernini that since that elephant is so small, we will be paying half."

Against which big money, big repression stuff, admire this gracious painting below. Not rich people.

Paying artists to depict the poor. Paying for a painting depicting a child who will direct anger at the rich and money changers.

Whose backs are broken producing the produce to fund the rich to build such palaces, families competing and hating and self-aggrandising in Rome? Wandering here, in this place of the very rich, the rough and incoherent graffiti of the streets today becomes more meaningful.

*** At the Wikipedia link from 'Bernini elephant' there is mention of Vittorio de Sica's film Umberto D [link is to the movie at Youtube] a landmark in neorealism, the story of a refined man, pitched into impossible poverty with just his dog. Nothing new about inequality then, move along... 
***** The Wikipedia article on the Inquisition says it's over, because they gave up the torture and burning some time ago. But I note and may blog with photo about the fact that there is a dark box with a slot near the exit at the Papal Archbasilica of San Giovanni in Laterano, the pope's church in his capacity as Bishop of Rome, carrying the name of the Congregation of the Faith, clearly for anonymous denunciations, denunciations and psychological flayings and punishments of excommunication continuing still. Did those nice people in that painting imagine such things, all this mental and organisational hypertrophy? They seem not to have had even clothes for their child.

enforcing the dress code?
 And here a Brueghel, such a huge collection of them, father and son, more below.

down a staircase into a jumblesome room with three Caravaggio's out of sight, to right

the Caravaggios, with some other stuff, a-clutter, a-clatter. 

And back to the piano nobile [the noble floor, as these high ceilinged first floors are known in Rome] for some lovely smaller works, towards the end of the circuit.

perhaps I should have mentioned this before but if you click on any image they are all enlarged.
It's a way to avoid my commentary too!  :-)

Showing the Doria family emblem

so many utterly famous paintings scattered about

detail from above

detail from above

don't mention the OH&S rules

And is this the guy speaking harshly to proto-bankers, critical of the rich?

The counter-reformation's reply to Botticelli?
I can't find it with a google search for girolamo da carpi doria pamphilji

Worth going to this gallery just for the Brueghels, extraordinary small paintings of story and mystery.
Forget the chocolate box Carravaggios.

As we leave, there is more of a crowd (unintimidated) in the state rooms

Downstairs a fine cafe, quality regal, prices only slightly princely. We enjoyed sitting.